UPDATE (1/30/18): A Go Fund Me page has been started to assist Kevin’s family with the cost of funeral arrangements
BEDFORD-STUYVESANT – Dozens of neighbors gathered with elected officials in the rain Sunday at a press conference to support the family of Kevin Angel Flores, the 13-year-old teenager who was struck and killed by an oil truck while riding his bike on Lewis Avenue at Jefferson Avenue on Friday night.
The victim’s mother, Margarita Flores, fought tears as she stood next to a makeshift memorial for her son and described her feelings when she first heard news of his death.
“I can only imagine how my son felt when he was hit,” Flores said through a translator. “He was probably crying for his mother, like all children do.”
Kevin Flores had been pedaling home to Ridgewood, Queens, where his family lives, when an oil truck made a left turn onto Jefferson Avenue and struck the teenager. The truck’s driver, identified by CBS2 as Philip Monfoletto, stayed on the scene and was taken into custody by police.
According to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Monfoletto had been operating his vehicle illegally.
“[This driver] had a suspended license not once but several times,” Adams said. “Yet he brazenly laughed at the law and drove on the road with the full understanding that his license was suspended.”
Characterizing existing traffic laws as “antiquated,” Adams said that the accident could have been prevented with stronger laws and heavier penalties.
Under existing New York Vehicle and Traffic (VAT) law § 511, if someone is caught driving without a license, there is a $200 to $500 fine for the first offense, depending on the severity of the crime.
“These penalties are sending a mockery of our system and we need to move forward to ensure that we send a very clear and strong message that our streets should not be unsafe to use,” Adams said.
Adams also pledged to reexamine laws that exempt owners of companies from liability when an unlicensed employee causes a serious accident on the road.
Councilman Robert Cornegy, Jr. represents the block where Flores was killed and said that drivers need to be aware of their surroundings, especially in residential communities.
“People have to understand that this is a community that’s surrounded by families and children,” he said. “These streets are not owned by vehicles. These streets are owned by the patrons and the constituents that live here.”
The L and S Jefferson Block Association has been working with the borough president’s office to collect money to help Flores’s family pay for funeral expenses, Greg Mayers, president of the association, said.
“We want to send a strong message that we love Kevin,” Mayers said. “This is a block where kids come together and they play. My daughter is 14 years old. Kevin could’ve been any of our kids on the block here…This is what unity, this is what community, is about.”
Councilman Antonio Reynoso, who represents parts of Bushwick and Ridgewood, called for better infrastructure to protect bicyclists and pedestrians in all areas of the city.
“An introduction of a bike lane is not an introduction to gentrification. It is an introduction to safety,” Reynoso said. “Kevin Angel Flores could’ve been in a bike lane, safe, coming from Bed-Stuy to Ridgewood. Instead, he was riding next to trucks and buses and cars.”
The nearest conventional bike lane is two avenues west, on Throop Avenue, according to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) 2017 bike map. There are no bike lanes east of Lewis Avenue for several avenues and no protected bike lanes in the neighborhood at all.
There are currently no bicycle route projects in development in Bedford-Stuyvesant, according to DOT’s website.
Cornegy, who spoke at today’s press conference and reportedly rides his bike to work, drew the ire of bike advocates last June when he announced his opposition to a proposed bike lane on Classon Avenue in nearby Clinton Hill. In 2016, Lauren Davis was killed on Classon Avenue while riding a bike.
In total, 23 bicyclists were killed across New York City last year, according to the city’s Vision Zero View map.
Ken Bandes, a member of the Families for Safe Streets campaign and the father of a child killed by a vehicle five years ago, echoed Reynoso’s call for action.
“It’s in our power to fix this: to have bike lanes, to have speed cameras, to have better, stronger laws,” Bandes said. “If you’re not on board with this, you need to ask yourself why.”
Families for Safe Streets is a project of Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy organization focused on pedestrian and bicycle safety.
Margarita Flores, who is five months pregnant with another child, stressed the importance of drivers being alert and free of distractions when they are behind the wheel so that no other families have to suffer like hers.
“[Kevin] was a good kid, a good young man and he deserved to continue to live,” Flores said.